Looking for a little bookspiration? Check out everything I read in January 2024 ... from thrillers to romances and more, there is something for everyone!
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Happy February, friend! I have a question for you this month: do you make reading goals?
One of my reading goals this year is to get through a good chunk of my TBR pile. I'm constantly checking out library books (via the Libby app, which I highly recommend) to read on my Kindle. Which is totally fine! But I also have many, many books that I've purchased for my Kindle, as well as physical copies I've bought in bookstores. I need to make a dent in these books that I already own. And I did a fairly good job of that this month, crossing six off my list!
January was a great month of reading. In the beginning of the month, I had a long plane ride, where I knocked out three books in one trip! Uninterrupted reading time is just the best. I ended up finishing twelve books in January, one of which was pretty short, plus three audiobooks.
This month, I read a lot of thrillers / mysteries / suspense. I love this genre ... the tension and uncertainty just makes reading fun! I also noticed something kind of humorous when I was editing this list: half of the books start with "The". There was The Retreat, The Dry, The Heiress, and on and on ... all very short and direct titles, I guess!
Speaking of, my favorite book this month was The Burnout by Sophie Kinsella! I've always loved her books, and this novel was a great feel good story. It was fun to read and told with plenty of the author's trademark humor. I couldn't put it down!
Did you read anything noteworthy this month? Make sure to let me know in the comments!
Books I Read in January 2024
I've included links for all of these books on Bookshop.org and Amazon so you can easily find them, as well as my ratings for each book (one star is lowest / five stars is highest).
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
About the Book: A anti-capitalist gardening collective forms an unlikely partnership with an enigmatic billionaire in Birnam Wood! For years, Birnam Wood (an unregulated and sometimes criminal collective that plants crops where no one will notice) has struggled to break even. When a landslide closes a pass on New Zealand's South Island, leaving a farm abandoned, it might be their chance at solvency. But American billionaire Robert Lemoine is also interested in the property (supposedly to build an end-times bunker), and when he has a chance meeting with Mira (Birnam Wood's founder), he's intrigued. They're at polar opposites politically, but they have enemies in common. As their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust one another?
My Review: I started Birnam Wood last summer! The book starts off fairly slow (in my opinion), but just when I was beginning to get into the story, my library loan ran out. Oops! Rather than rejoin the long waiting list, I purchased a copy, but I didn't pick it up again until the very end of December. Not the most ideal way to read a book (especially one with dense writing, like this), but I really enjoyed it nevertheless. The characters were so well developed (I could picture each one of them in real life), and the story felt timely. I liked this book more and more the further I got into it, and I definitely didn't expect the ending!
None of this True by Lisa Jewell
About the Book: A podcaster becomes the subject of her own true crime podcast in None of This Is True! While celebrating her 45th birthday at a local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summer meets Josie Fair, an unassuming woman who shares the same age and birthdate. They're birthday twins! When Josie and Alix bump into each again other a few days later, Josie convinces Alix that her life would make an interesting subject for a new podcast series. Josie's complicated life is unsetting, but Alix can't seem to stop recording the podcast, even when she realizes that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets. And somehow, Josie has worked her way into Alix's life and home. But then Josie disappears just as quickly as she arrived, leaving Alix's family in jeopardy. Just who is Josie, and what has she done?
My Review: Lisa Jewell never disappoints, and I couldn't put this book down! The contrast between the two main characters, who share a birthday, but have incredibly different lives, was very interesting. And then there was Josie. There was something a little off and sad about her right from the start, and her story gets increasingly dark as the podcast progresses. I also loved the format of this book, with excerpts of the podcast and a TV show interspersed with the story as it takes place.
Happy Place by Emily Henry
About the Book: A former couple pretends they're still together in Happy Place! Each summer, Wyn, Harriet, and their best friends gather for a weeklong vacation at a cottage in Maine. It's their happy place, where they can leave their daily lives behind and enjoy amazing food, wine, and the salty coastal air with the people who know them best. There's just two problems ... it will be the friend's last summer at the cottage, which is for sale, and Harriet and Wyn (a couple since they met in college), broke up five months ago, and they still haven't told their friends. Now Wyn and Harriet are forced to share a bedroom, and lie through their teeth to everyone, all while trying to ignore how much they still want each other.
My Review: This book has been taunting me on my Kindle since last summer, and I'm so glad finally got around to reading it! Emily Henry's books are always a fun read, and while this one wasn't my favorite of hers, I still really enjoyed it. Besides the main couple, this book has lots of others characters, so it's also a story about friends vs. just a romance (although everyone else has a romance going on, too). I did think the side characters were a bit one dimensional, and at times, the miscommunication between Harriet and Wyn was a bit much. But overall, a fun read!
Zero Days by Ruth Ware
About the Book: A woman races against time to find her husband's murderer and clear her name in Zero Days! Jack and her husband Gabe are security experts hired by companies to break into their buildings and hack their security systems. After a routine job goes wrong, Jack returns home and discovers that her husband has been brutally murdered. She soon realized that she's the number one suspect, and suddenly, she's on the run. As Jack searches for the real killer, she must figure out who she can really trust.
My Review: I normally really enjoy Ruth Ware's books, but this one was not a favorite. First of all, I guessed who was behind the murder immediately. Womp womp. And then there was the main character Jack ... there was just something I didn't love about her. She was very self-doubting, even though she was clearly very skilled and smart. I just found her kind of annoying.
The Burnout by Sophie Kinsella
About the Book: An overwhelmed woman would rather do anything than face another day at her office in The Burnout! Sasha has had it with her job. Her inbox is overflowing with urgent emails, and the employee joyfulness program is a joke. Sasha's personal life is suffering, too ... she hasn't seen her friends in months, she has no interest in sex, and even cooking dinner is too much. Forced to take a break, she heads to the seaside hotel she loved as a child, armed with good intentions to drink kales smoothies, practice yoga, and find peace. But the luxury resort has become decidedly ramshackle, and she can't relax when the only other person on the beach, a grumpy guy named Finn, has taken over her favorite rock. When strange messages start appearing on the beach, Sasha and Finn are forced to talk. Can they work together to figure out why they both became so burned out?
My Review: I always know that when I read a Sophie Kinsella book it's going to be good, and The Burnout was no different ... I loved it! Having had a few nightmare jobs myself, I could totally relate to Sasha and her desire to escape. Burnout is no fun, but this book was filled with the author's usual whit and humor. Sasha was wonderful, the tension between her and Finn was perfect, and the story is filled with interesting and funny side characters, from Sasha's mom to the hotel's front desk clerk. The perfect book for when you need a feel good read!
The Retreat by Sarah Pearse
About the Book: A luxurious getaway turns into a nightmare in The Retreat! A beautiful wellness resort has opened on an island off the English coast. While the retreat promises rest and relaxation, the island itself (known locally as Reaper's Rock) is rumored to be cursed and has a very dark past. When a young woman is found dead below the yoga pavilion, it appears to be a tragic fall. But Detective Elin Warner soon discovers that the victim wasn't a guest, and she wasn't meant to be on the island. As more secrets unfold, then another guests drowns, Elin begins to suspect there's nothing accidental about these deaths. She must discover the truth before the island's history begins repeating itself.
My Review: I really enjoyed this book, though I'm not sure why anyone would vacation on that creepy island! This story is full of tension, from the main characters (a family that doesn't seem to like one another), to the island itself (which was once terrorized by a serial killer), and the locked room aspect (the guests become stuck on the island). I did start to suspect the murderer fairly quickly, but the book had plenty of interesting twists and a good backstory to keep me interested. I do wish that Elin would be more confident in her detective abilities, but I understand why she doubts herself.
About the Series: The Retreat is book #2 in the Detective Elin Warner series. I had read (and loved) The Sanitorium (the first book in the series) a couple years ago, so this book was a must read for me. The Wilds (Book #3 in this series) comes out in July, and I've already preordered it!
The Dry by Jane Harper
About the Book: A federal agent returns to his hometown for his best friend's funeral in The Dry! Twenty years ago Aaron Falk was accused of murder, and his best friend Luke was his alibi. After fleeing town with his father under a cloud of suspicion, Aaron hadn't returned home in decades. But now Luke is dead, and Aaron has received a note demanding his presence at Luke's funeral. More than one person seems to know that the boys weren't telling the truth back then, and amidst the worst drought in a century, long buried mysteries emerge as Aaron (who is now a federal agent) and a local detective begin questioning what really happened to Luke.
My Review: The Dry hadn't been on my radar until recently (I read a rave review somewhere), and I'm so glad I picked it up! I loved the Australian setting, and the book is incredibly atmospheric. You can really feel how the weather is making everyone's lives miserable. And then there were the various small town characters, which I could picture so clearly. I also really enjoyed the balance between the present day mystery (Lukes death) and the older murder, and the author really kept me on the edge of my seat ... so many suspects!
About the Series: The Dry is book #1 in the three-part Aaron Falk series. I'm actually reading book #2, Force of Nature, right now, and The Exiles (book #3) is also available. There's also a movie based on this book, starring Erica Bana, who I didn't realize was Australian. I need to check that out soon!
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
About the Book: The past and the present are intricately linked in Winter Garden! Meredith and Nina Whitson couldn't be more different: one sister stayed home to manage the family apple orchard, and the other traveled the world as a photojournalist. But they're brought together again when their father becomes ill. The sister's only connection to their cold, disapproving mother Anya is the Russian fairy tale she sometimes told them when they were girls. On his deathbed, their father makes Anya promise that she'll tell the fairytale once more ... all the way to the end. As the story unfolds, the sisters slowly learn the truth about their mother's life in war-torn Leningrad over five decades ago, and it shakes the very foundation of their family.
My Review: I had mixed feelings about this book (I listened to the audiobook version on Everand). Anya's story was fascinating. I didn't know much about the siege of Leningrad beforehand, so the historical aspect was very interesting. That said, the story definitely dragged for me at certain points, especially the first part, although the second part helped make up for it ... once Anya started telling her story, I couldn't wait to hear the end! I've read a few Kristin Hannah books now, and while I loved The Great Alone and The Four Winds, I'm not sure she's a must read author for me. That said, a copy of The Nightingale is waiting for me on my bookshelf, and her newest book, The Women, has lots of great reviews. I'm torn!
The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins
About the Book: A family's secrets finally come out in The Heiress! When Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore died, she was North Carolina’s richest woman, as well as its most notorious. She was famously kidnapped as a child, and as an adult, she was a four time widow. After her death, her adopted son Camden rejected her money and the family estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and settled into a quiet life in Colorado with Jules, a woman who was also eager to escape her messy past. Ten years later, when Cam and Jules return to the estate after his uncle's death, questions about the infamous heiress also resurface. As Ruby's secrets come to light, the couple soon realizes that Cam's inheritance involves more than what’s written in the will, and that the bonds of family stretch far beyond the grave.
My Review: This author also writes "paranormal romantic comedies" under the name Erin Sterling, and I've read and loved both of those books. So when I realized that Erin Sterling and Rachel Hawkins were the same person, I knew that I had to check out her thrillers, too. And The Heiress didn't disappoint! This was quite the twisty novel, especially near the end! I listened to it on Everand, and I have a bad habit of zoning out to audiobooks, so I definitely had to rewind a few times, ha ha. The story is told through Cam and Jules, Ruby's letters, and newspaper / magazine articles. I especially enjoyed Ruby and Jules' parts.
Bye, Baby by Carola Lovering (Out 3/5/24)
I received an advance copy of Bye, Baby from NetGalley / St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book: A lifelong relationship is tested in Bye, Baby! Billie West is sitting in a NYC apartment when she's hears her best friend Cassie Barnwell's terrified screams from one floor above. Cassie has just realized that her infant daughter is missing. As Billie looks down at the baby in her arms, she realizes that she is the one responsible for shattering Cassie's world. The two best friend were bonded by their childhood secrets, but they're no longer an inseparable pair. Cassie is married to a wealthy man and has become a popular influencer. She's desperate to leaves her past behind, and single, childless Billie doesn't fit in her world. But Billie knows the worst thing Cassie has ever done, and she'll do anything to get her friend back.
My Review: As you can probably tell from the description, this quite the story! It's told through both women's perspectives, and you slowly learn their about their traumatic pasts. Billie actually has a pretty great life, she just can't get over the fact that Cassie no longer wants to be friends. I wanted to shake some sense into Billie more than once! But it's easy to understand how she feels, and I was actually pretty sympathetic toward her (apart from the kidnapping, lol). You do have to suspend reality a bit to understand why the other characters (including her boss and boyfriend) react to Billie's actions the way they do, but overall I really enjoyed this book which comes out on March 5!
The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams
About the Book: A wife's husband and best friend are at odds in The Three of Us! The wife has it all. A beautiful house in a good neighborhood, her longtime best friend Temi, and a husband who loves her above everything else ... even his dislike of Temi. One day Temi comes over to spend the afternoon with the wife, drink wine, snack, and laugh about the husband's shortcomings. But when the husband comes home from work early and confessions are made, Temi and the husband find themselves jockeying for the preferred position. And their long drawn out territorial dance is thrown into chaos.
My Review: This is such a clever book! It's told in three parts—the wife, the husband, and finally Temi—over the course of a day, and Temi is the only character whose name you know. The book is short and it's a quick read. It's almost like you're right there with them enjoying the gossip, gawking at the drama, and waiting nervously to see what happens next!
The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
About the Book: A quiet neighborhood isn't as idyllic as it seems in The Girls in the Garden! In a quiet pocket of bustling London, a group of homes surrounds a picturesque communal garden square. The garden is an oasis where children can run free, in and out of the houses that surround it. Some of the neighbors have lived there their whole lives, and everyone knows and trusts one another implicitly. One summer evening, as a neighborhood party takes place, preteen Pip find the body of her 13-year-old sister Grace lying in a hidden corner of the lush rose garden. What happened to her? And who is responsible?
My Review: Two Lisa Jewell books in one month. I'm slowly working my way through her back catalog, and I really enjoyed listing to this one on Everand! This is actually reminded me in some ways of how I grew up (although swap Wisconsin for London, and no sketchy circumstances, ha ha). My family lived by two other families, and we all spent a lot of time roaming between one another's homes. So I can see how the parents weren't always watching the kids super closely!
And that wraps up everything I read in January! Overall, it was a month of wonderful books. I hope you found something new to read! Have you finished any of these books, or did you read anything this month that you'd recommend? Let me know if the comments!
Looking for more great books? Check out everything I read in December and November, flashback to the Books I Read Last January, and don't miss my Favorite Books from 2023, or and this roundup of Winter Reads I created for bookshop.org!